Millions of Americans suffer from constipation or irregular bowel movements. Fortunately, there are natural ways you can help streamline digestion and improve gut health. We’ve put together this list of the best natural laxatives that you can add to your diet today. From a cup of coffee to leafy greens and aloe vera, you’ll find all-natural ingredients that can help keep you regular.
What Are Laxatives?
Laxatives are compounds that help to speed up or initiate bowel movements. These compounds are commonly used by people who suffer from constipation or irregular bowel movements. There are several different types of laxatives. Bulk-forming laxatives are highly absorbent compounds that absorb water as they move through the digestive tract. By soaking up water, these laxatives build bulk, making it easier for the body to form stool.
Stool softeners also encourage the body to absorb more water, making waste easier to eliminate. Lubricant laxatives work to lubricate the surface of stool to make it move more easily through the intestines. Stimulant laxatives encourage the digestive system to process food more rapidly, leading to increased bowel movements. Osmotic laxatives support the colon in helping to maintain enough water so bowel movements are softer and easier to pass.
Laxatives can come in natural forms such as food sources or over-the-counter supplements. Some of the most popular over-the-counter laxatives include Metamucil, Miralax, and Dulcolax. These laxatives typically contain soluble fiber or insoluble fiber to help streamline digestion. If you’re looking for natural ways to encourage bowel movements, read on to discover the best natural laxatives you can add to your diet today.
The 9 Best Laxatives for Gut Health and Regularity
Water is an essential component of any healthy digestive system. As stool makes its way to the colon, it absorbs water, helping to lubricate everything and keep things moving smoothly. Unfortunately, stool sometimes doesn’t move through the colon or intestines quickly enough, leading to constipation. Drinking water and staying hydrated can help avoid constipation by ensuring the body has enough water to maintain regularity.
Try to drink water regularly throughout the day. You can add a few slices of lemon or cucumber to add a little extra flavor. If you suffer from chronic constipation, invest in a water bottle that you can keep with you at all times. Just seeing the water bottle can be enough to remind you to stay hydrated.
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are packed with fiber that triggers feelings of fullness in the colon. This sends a signal to start releasing waste, helping to stimulate bowel movements. Many of these vegetables also contain magnesium, which helps to naturally loosen stool. Try to consume around 25 grams of fiber every day and use leafy greens like spinach and kale to achieve your goals. If you’re really struggling to reach your daily allotment of dietary fiber, try adding a fiber supplement to your daily regimen.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are grains that absorb water and contain 10 grams of fiber in every single one-ounce serving. The seeds turn into a gel-like substance as they absorb water, helping to add lubrication in the large intestine and small intestine. The fiber content also helps to bulk up stools, encouraging bowel movements. Add 3 tablespoons to one cup of almond milk or coconut milk and let sit for 3 to 4 hours. You can add other flavors such as cinnamon or cocoa powder for added flavor if desired.
Caffeine is a natural laxative thanks to a compound known as gastrin. Gastrin is a natural hormone that is released during the digestive process and encourages the release of gastric acid — a key component in the breakdown of food. Drinking caffeine stimulates the production of gastrin, helping to stimulate digestion and encourage bowel movements (2).
Oils like olive oil, mineral oil, and castor oil work to lubricate the digestive system o help loosen hard stools. You can drink a tablespoon of the oil at each meal or drizzle it on your culinary dishes. Oils are particularly great on salads and whole-grain pasta. People who are trying to lose weight should use oils occasionally as part of their constipation treatment plan as these oils can pack on the calories. — and the pounds
6. Greek Yogurt
Probiotics are legendary in the world of digestion. These powerful microscopic compounds work to restore a healthy gut microbiome, complete with billions of bacteria that keep digestion in tip-top shape. Yogurt and kefir are packed with healthy gut bacteria that can help you stay regular. The bacteria in yogurt can also help to alleviate or prevent gas and bloating after a heavy meal.
Like chia seeds, flaxseeds contain large amounts of fiber that can help keep you regular. Every tablespoon contains three grams of fiber that can stimulate bowel movements and streamline digestion. These tiny seeds also absorb water and contain mucilage, a gel-like substance that can increase lubrication during digestion.
8. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera gel is a popular home remedy for treating sunburns. Aloe vera juice also offers dozens of health benefits and can help to increase hydration, thus offering constipation relief. Aloe has high water content and mildly sour flavor that can be added to smoothies and other beverages. Aloe contains enzymes and vitamins that work to lubricate the digestive system, helping to produce a laxative effect (1).
9. High-Fiber Fruit
Some fruits are packed with fiber that can keep you regular and help ease the cause of constipation. Prunes, kiwi fruit, apples, and berries are all great choices. Keep in mind that some fruits may cause gas and bloat depending on how much you eat. If you don’t feel like eating the whole fruit, try a 100 percent juice like prune juice or apple juice instead. These fruits can also help you meet your weight loss goals by making you feel full faster and longer thanks to their high concentrations of fiber. They can also help increase energy to get you through the day.
Side Effects of Natural Laxatives
Talk to a qualified healthcare professional before taking fiber supplements. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may cause adverse effects. A doctor can also help you understand if natural laxatives will interact with any medication or cause any side effects for your specific needs. Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should also consult an obstetrician before changing their diets.
Relieve Constipation With Natural Laxatives
Millions of Americans suffer from constipation. If you suffer from constipation or have hard stools, make sure to drink plenty of water and eat a high fiber diet. If you still have problems or suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, try one of these other natural laxatives or opt for a mild laxative to treat constipation. In severe cases, you may need to get a prescription laxative from your doctor to relieve constipation in the digestive tract.